Tackling climate emergency requires a global pact

If the current trend of climate change continues, around 17 percent of Bangladesh will be submerged by 2050 due to rising sea levels, rendering 20 million people homeless, according to climate experts. File Photo: Star

The impacts of the recent hurricane Ida in the United States, which killed more than 50 people and caused floods as far as in New York, was acknowledged by President Joe Biden as being more severe because of human-induced climate change. The same has been proven unequivocally by the science of attribution for having raised global mean temperature above one degree Celsius above the pre-industrial revolution period, as stated by the recent Sixth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Thus, it is now clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world has crossed over the threshold into the era where loss and damage from climate change has become a reality. This means that every day an unprecedented extreme weather event is likely to occur, causing both economic as well as non-economic loss and damage around the world.

While these adverse climate change impacts in the next decade or so are no longer preventable, the worst impacts in the longer term can still be avoided—but only by taking emergency measures commensurate with the urgency of the problem.

Hence it is absolutely essential for global actions to be taken everywhere every day, by everyone, to tackle the global climate emergency.

This was recently emphasised by the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which consists of nearly 50 of the most vulnerable developing countries currently led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh. Prime Minister Hasina called for a global Climate Emergency Pact (CEP), to be agreed upon and adopted at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), due to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, later this year.

The main focus of this proposed CEP is for every country to enhance its efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) to keep the global temperature below 1.5 degrees, which is still possible, but only if every country enhances its emissions reduction plan as quickly as possible. The CEP calls for every country to provide information on their actions on an annual basis, rather than every five years as currently required, as there is no more time to lose.

The second requirement in the CEP is for the developed countries to provide a firm plan on how they will deliver on their promised funding of USD 500 billion over five years from 2020 to 2024, which they pledged back in 2015. So far, they failed to deliver even the USD 100 billion that was due in 2020.

The CEP calls for the UK as the presidency of COP26 to get the developed countries to provide their plans to deliver this funding over the next few years. After 2025, the annual funding amount is also supposed to be enhanced to more than USD 100 billion.ghg

An associated demand from the CVF countries is that half of the funds must go towards supporting adaptation actions in the most vulnerable developing countries, and the other half should go for mitigation actions. This is in contrast to the current ratio of 80 percent of the fund going into mitigation in the form of loans, and only 20 percent for adaptation in the form of grants.

In addition to grants for adaptation and loans for mitigation, the CEP also calls for debt swaps to enable the Covid-19 affected developing countries to convert their debts to support actions in order to tackle climate change and also to preserve nature. The case of Belize in converting its debts to conserve a major maritime reserve in the Caribbean is a good example.

Finally, the CVF countries are asking for the UK presidency of COP26 to elevate the topic of tackling loss and damage from human-induced climate change to a high priority status in every COP, starting with COP26, as we are now already in the era of loss and damage from climate change.

The recent imposition of Red List by the UK on many members of the CVF, including Bangladesh, requiring delegates from these countries to be quarantined in hotels for 10 days on arrival in the UK prior to participating in COP26, has caused a lot of consternation about the ability of the most vulnerable developing countries to participate in COP26. It is incumbent on the UK as the host country to either drop the Red List requirements or pay for the hotel quarantine and reduce the time to only a few days. It is good to see that the UK may be willing to do this.

In the case of Bangladesh, the parliamentary declaration of Planetary Emergency has already laid the foundation for the country to treat both climate change as well as biodiversity conservation as a national emergency. Now this needs to become a part of national priority and should be implemented urgently.

Bangladesh, thus, has an opportunity to show the rest of the world how to deal with climate change as the genuine emergency that it is for every country.

Originally this article was published on September 15, 2021 at Daily Star. The author Prof. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).
Email: saleemul.huq@icccad.org